Wednesday, 4 May 2016

2000AD Prog 1979

Prog 1979 Cover by Simon Davis

With this fantastic fully-painted cover, Simon Davis once again reinforces his skill as a portrait artist, which is not surprising, considering his role as the Vice-President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. I love this painting of Slaine, and the heavy use of blues helps emphasise the bruised ego and beaten face of the character at the hands of his arch-enemy, the Primordial. The choice of colour palette also evokes memories of William Wallace, intentional or not, with the blue background reminding me of the Scottish flag. Now into his third run on Slaine, Davis has quickly proven himself a definitive artist on the strip, which has been lucky enough to feature legendary artists such as Glenn Fabry, Simon Bisley and Clint Langley.

Script - Michael Carroll
Art - PJ Holden
Colours - Adam Brown
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

The mystery deepens in this latest installment of “The Lion's Den” as Judge Joyce finds himself in the company of some Emerald Isle terrorists determined to get revenge against the Brit-Cit government. With the fast-paced speed of this storyline, readers barely have an opportunity to mourn Dredd, instead finding themselves thrust into a world of political intrigue not unlike past conflicts between the Irish and English governments. It's interesting to see Michael Carroll present a futuristic take on “The Troubles” and focusing on the tension between the two cities. With so many Judge Dredd stories focused on American analogues, it's quite interesting to see writers concentrate on other locales. While most of this installment takes place on the streets of Brit-Cit, Carroll makes sure to include details of Mega City-One's partnership with Texas City – a plot point also seen in Judge Dredd Megazine – which implies some connection between the Brit-Cit conspiracy and Texas City. Carroll has certainly crafted an intricate mystery and it's fun to see the seemingly disparate plot threads come together.

Art-wise, this series continues to impress and PJ Holden does a tremendous job at balancing the juxtaposition of Brit-Cit with the neon-lights of the main city contrasted against the quiet cul-de-sac where McCluskey and his freedom-fighters hide out. It's fun to see echoes of our own life reflected in Holden's artwork, and he clearly enjoys hiding in-jokes within the panels for keen-eyed readers to spot. This week, there's a sly reference to Jedward's Hair, which seems to have carved out a lucrative career for itself in the far-future and the “inspirational” Roland the Rat musical playing in Brit-Cit's West End. Holden's dark and action-packed artwork is a great fit for this storyline, highlighting the grim nature of the current conspiracy but not unafraid to cut loose for some high-octane action sequences when needed. Even without its titular character, Judge Dredd remains vital reading with an engaging mystery at the heart of its current storyline that demands reader's attention.

BRINK (Part 2)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - INJ Culbard
Letters - Simon Bowland

After a fantastic introduction to the series last Prog, this episode of Brink is a lot more expositionary and allows readers to understand more about the world aboard the space-station. Dan Abnett continues to make this series accessible, throwing in futuristic vernacular to distinguish it from our own world. As expected from an Abnett strip, the dialogue flows wonderfully and it's enjoyable to watch the two HSD agents convince their superior to allow them to follow up on this case, as well as the formality of the interrogation scene. While this is largely a 'talking-heads' episode, INJ Culbard's art manages to sparkle throughout as he effortlessly creates a distinct mood throughout the two sections of the episode, thanks to the subtle colours used. The heavy blues used in the interrogation scene not only distinguishes it from the present-day events but also heightens the tension and formal nature of the scene, whereas the more intimate colours of the chief's office present it as a place of security and comfort. Culbard is a master of storytelling, even in these more 'mundane' moments of the plot and after only two episodes, I'm already a massive fan of this deep-space police procedural drama and can't wait to see our heroes relocate to the more dilapidated Ludmilla habitat to continue their investigation into the Sects.

Script - Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby
Art - Neil Googe
Colours - Gary Caldwell
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Continuing to break the fourth wall, this latest episode of Survival Geeks is another extended flashback filling in the narrative gaps and revealing how Rufus and Clive ended up paired together on an alien world. It's great to see these two characters interacting on their own as they inhabit opposite ends of the 'geek spectrum' – Clive is a hyper-intelligent nerd, whilst Rufus is a stoner layabout. Their relationship dynamic reminds me a lot of Lister and Rimmer from Red Dwarf, and it's been fun to see this explored, albeit briefly. As always, writers Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby fill their script full of pop culture references and it's great to see them make the connection between Kev's insertion into their history and the 'Dawn' plot-line from Season Five of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I really do enjoy the meta-fictional references throughout this series, although I do hope the fourth-wall breaking is confined to this storyline only as I find it an irritating plot device.

Neil Googe once again proves his artistic talent in this episode with a sequence of panels chock-full of zombie references, ranging from the obvious to the more obscure. It's almost like a game of Where's Wally trying to spot and decipher the visual easter eggs sewn into the strip. Did you spot the references to Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, The Walking Dead, The Evil Dead, Dead Snow, Resident Evil and Planet Terror amongst the various branded signs, newspapers and auto-mobiles abandoned in the derelict city centre? I love these little nods to popular geek franchises that Googe slots into his artwork, as seen from the female-orientated takes on Star Wars and other movie classics seen in the previous storyline. I also enjoyed the way he is able to switch from light-hearted style to the grim realism of a zombie horde within the space of a panel, demonstrating a real diversity in his techniques. I am a huge fan of his art on this series, and with his work on this episode, Googe once again proves himself to be a vital part of what makes Survival Geeks so fun.

Script - Kek-W
Art - Dave Kendall
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Civilisation continues to crumble in this latest instalment of Tainted: The Fall of Deadworld as Kek-W brings the various plot threads back together again, reuniting Judge Fairfax with the ever-decreasing family of farmers who found him. There's a definite acceleration in pace in this episode as 'Uncle Luke' is finally dispatched after nearly eating his sister and niece, and the patriarch of the family 'Grandpa' is shockingly killed by a gunshot wound in the back. Considering that this series must end with all of its living characters dead, it shouldn't come as a surprise when Kek-W kills off his main cast, but it's a testament to his writing that these deaths do come as a shock. It looks like this is all coming to a head, and part of me is expecting some kind of twist at the end – I'm still banking on Judge Fairfax becoming one of the Dark Judges and revealing this adventure to be a secret origin story for Judge Fear, or perhaps Mortis.

This series is truly the stuff of nightmares, thanks to Dave Kendall's ability to capture such haunting images onto the page. I absolutely loved the full-page panel that showcased the effects of the dead fluids being pumped into Grandpa's neck as he relived key moments of death and loss throughout his life. As a writer myself, I often find myself more analytical about the scripts and sometimes overlook the immense skill of the artist themselves, and Kendall demonstrates a tremendous level of artistic talent with his work here. Each panel evokes so much atmosphere that it actually feels like a window into another world, filled with disease and death. It's always a pleasure to see a harmonious balance between writer and artist as it elevates the work beyond the sum of its parts and Tainted: The Fall of Deadworld really has propelled itself to instant classic status and a vital tome in Judge Dredd history, fleshing out the horrible history of Deadworld.

Script - Pat Mills
Art - Simon Davis
Letters - Ellie de Ville

I find myself very conflicted when it comes to Slaine – artistically, the series is absolutely amazing as Simon Davis produces some career-defining work on the series. However, the plot feels paper-thin at times and doesn't quite match the same levels as the artwork. For example, this fight scene, which is constantly narrated over by the Lord Weird, doesn't ring true and almost feels like a child playing with their action figures and coming up with implausible reasons to end the fight. Actually, in some ways it reminds me of Dragonball Z, with the fighters constantly reaching new zeniths in power to overtake the other. I could have sworn that it had been established that Slaine was unable to Warp-Spasm in this fight due to the Primordial's powers, but he still manages to do so at the episode's climax.

Slaine's relationship with his father has been an ongoing plot thread throughout this series of stories and here Pat Mills sows the seeds of doubt as to whether Roth was truly his father, suggesting that a “I am your Father” moment is on the cards. On one side, I am enjoying this more simpler take on Slaine, as I found myself lost in some of the denser, more mythological based storylines of the past, and with The Brutania Chronicles, both Mills and Davis effectively 'rebooted' the character and made him more accessible to new readers. However, it does feel that the storyline has been running on a slow-boil since the end of Book One and I hope that this third chapter adds a bit more meat to the serial's bones and gives Slaine more to do than fight, or get beaten up – an appearance from Ukko the Dwarf would be a much welcome addition to the tale as his presence is sorely missed.


In a Prog filled with top-notch storytelling, it is hard to pick a series that stands out from the crowd but this week, Tainted: The Fall of Deadworld just clinches it. With things racing to a climax, this series by Kek-W and Dave Kendall is just knocking it out of the park. Script and artwork are just working together perfectly to create an unmissable experience that lingers in the mind long after closing the Prog. Elsewhere, Brink continues to impress as Abnett and Culbard world-build their hearts out, and Michael Carroll is doing an absolutely fantastic job on his Judge Dredd mega-epic, juggling narrative balls with exceptional skill. This is a truly great set of stories, each of which could easily earn the spot of “Thrill of the Week” but have unfortunately ended up running in the Prog at the same time. With an array of fantastic stories, 2000AD continues to prove that it is more than just a vehicle for Judge Dredd, and could easily carry on with or without its infamous lawman of the future.

Thrill of the Week: Tainted: The Fall of Deadworld

The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1979 will be available in stores on Wednesday 4th May - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the standalone 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

Keep checking back each week for more reviews and features about 2000AD, the Galaxy's Greatest Comic! Remember to leave your comments below, or contact me on Twitter or through my Facebook page!

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